Reptile and Frog Skeletons

Inland Bearded Dragon skulls, adult and hatchling.  Photo: Paul Stokes

Inland Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps, adult and juvenile skulls. 

Skeletons and skeleton images

The study of reptile skeletons (osteology) lags behind that of mammals and birds. This is, in part, because comaparative collections of reptile skeletons are small in most museums, and preparation of dried skeletal material can be slow and delicate work, due to the small size of most species.

The Herpetology Section is working to improve the access to reptile skeletal material at the South Australian Museum. We are expanding our holdings of skeletal (especially skull) specimens, and are also using the new technology of micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) to create an image library of species. Using X-rays instead of a camera, the image library will show the variety of structures in the skeletons of frogs, lizards and snakes.

Dried skeletons can be photographed using computerised auto-montage, to ensure maximum sharpness of the image through the full depth of the specimen.

Veiled Chameleon.  Automontage of skull

Veiled Chameleon. Automontage of skull.

Micro-CT imagery can be used to reveal bony structures in intact specimens, so that no destruction of a specimen’s soft tissues is necessary. It allows the study of the relationships between bones in the skeleton, and also allows the internal structure of bones to be examined.

Micro-CT scan of head of a Tree Skink

Micro-CT scan of a head of a Tree Skink.

Study of skeletal structures is contributing to research on the evolutionary relationships, function and fossil history of Australia’s lizards and snakes.